Imagine an ecosystem where all living things coexist in harmony, each helping the other flourish and grow and, ideally, making their shared world a better place. Now imagine that ecosystem is an office and all the living things contained therein employees. Insert a pollutant into that environment—in the form of an unprofessional coworker who’s messy, who fails at communicating, or who’s more of a hindrance than a help—and what do you have? You have clear evidence that being professional at work matters. But what does being professional at work mean beyond the obvious “not coming to work drunk and getting into fistfights”? And what are the benefits of not being “that guy”? I’m glad you asked…
Laying the Ground Rules for Being Professional
While the word “professional” is constantly thrown around in conversations, the word is wrapped in a hazy cloud of ambiguity. However, being professional at work can be distilled into five distinct positive traits: competence, accountability, reliability, being organized and ethical.
Professionals know the complexities of his or her job yet is clear in their communication. They are accountable and take responsibility for the outcomes of his or her work. They display reliability and respects other people’s time. They show up at work and do not pollute the air with personal matters. They do not subject his or her colleagues to mood swings. They offer help when needed.
Likewise, professionals work in a methodical and organized manner. They are neat, updated and uncluttered.
Lastly, professionals have unquestionable work ethics. They are fair and respectful to colleagues. They do not throw unnecessary or derisive remarks towards them and honors his or her promises and commitments.
Did someone take your red stapler? Did a boss move your desk into a basement, leaving you to mumble alone in the dark? If so, being professional means rolling with the punches, dealing with these setbacks in a constructive manner, and not burning the building to the ground. (See the 1999 comedy classic “Office Space” for reference.)
Benefits of Being Professional at Work
Exhibiting positive professional traits offer benefits on various levels. Here are a few instances of how those benefits might manifest in tangible ways.
- A reputation for being professional will help you earn people’s trust and confidence. Colleagues will be thrilled to work with you. Leaders are excited to include you in projects. Your name will be mentioned around promotions and organizational movements.
- Your excellent reputation will most likely reach professional circles. Being professional at work is a way to craft an impressive personal brand.
- Positive professional traits also benefit the people around you. A professional work atmosphere increases job satisfaction and brings out the best in people by eliminating stress, delineating clear boundaries and instilling a sense of responsibility in every member of the team. With increased job satisfaction and enhanced workplace experience, productivity is higher, and the quality of output is evident.
- Being around colleagues who possess positive professional traits creates an environment of success for the company, too. According to the Wall Street Journal, having a few bad apples within the company can cause productivity to drop by 20-30%. Likewise, incompetent colleagues and workplace bullies are often the cause of high absenteeism rates, or worse- high attrition rates.
- A professional work environment makes it easier for companies to optimize team dynamics. Companies can eliminate silos by working cohesively with different teams and departments. Best practices can be easily shared.
- Lastly, a cohesive team of self-sufficient professionals is a fitting base to reinforce the company’s core values, culture, and branding. These kinds of workforces can be the company’s ambassadors to the outside world.
Without a doubt, being professional at work benefits you, your colleague and the company as a whole. The most important thing to keep in mind is that all actions impact everyone around us. Want that red stapler back? A workplace professional who everyone enjoys working with can easily get the office manager to order another one.